SEDALIA, Mo. – Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s brought their big Gunn to the Missouri American Legion State Tournament at Liberty Park Stadium, but it wasn’t enough to avoid an 8-2 opening loss to Jefferson City Post 5 Thursday afternoon.
Sweet-swinging second baseman Anthony Gunn collected four hits – including a bases-clearing double in the eighth inning – but missed opportunities and the inability to collect a big hit early in the game means manager Mike Rooney’s team must fight its way back through the loser’s bracket, beginning with a 4 p.m. contest today against the Lee’s Summit Outlaws, a 7-5 loser to Festus Post 253.
“Anthony had a great game today,” Rooney said, “but gosh, we missed so many opportunities early in the game. We had the leadoff man on base four straight innings (second through fifth) and couldn’t get any of them home.
“And Jake (Lufft, the A’s starter) was uncharacteristically wild. How many batters did he hit (four)? He hasn’t hit that many batters all season. But I could tell by talking to the guys after the game, they’re ready to get a win tomorrow and get back in this thing.”
Gunn singled in the first and seventh innings and doubled in the third and eighth. His three-run double in the eighth cut the deficit to 8-5, but the A’s could not put any more runs on the Bill Dey Field scoreboard.
“We didn’t play A’s baseball today,” Gunn said. “We got a lot of hits – like 13. But we left something like 11 runners on base. We always get the big hit and drive those guys home, but we just couldn’t get the big hit today.
“But this loss just makes us want to win that much more tomorrow. But you know what? When we scored those three runs in the eighth inning, we all thought we were going to come back and win the game. We never gave up, and I know we’ll come out and play better tomorrow.”
Lufft, who had an RBI single in the first, a double in the third and a single in the eighth inning, talked about his outing in which he allowed eight runs (six earned) and walked four and hit four batters in five innings.
“Man, I haven’t hit four guys all season and I hit four today,” Lufft said. “It wasn’t my day. It happens. I don’t like that it happened today, but I have so much faith in my teammates I know we’re going to come back tomorrow and get some big hits with runners on base and find a way to win.
“We have to – or our season is over.”
Jefferson City manager Curt Vaughan praised the effort of both teams.
“You look at the scoreboard and they have one less error than we do and they outhit us 13-11, but we win the game,” said Vaughan, whose Post 5 team edged the A’s 3-2 in eight innings in the championship game of the 29th annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational in early July.
“We have so much respect for Mike and his team. They play the game the way it should be played. We both threw our aces and (their) guy struggled a little with his command and our guy gave us everything he had for five innings.”
Jason Rackers allowed two runs and seven hits and struck out seven in his five-inning stint. Jeff City used a total of five pitchers, as Vaughan made sure none of his relievers threw past the minimum pitch count so they could be used again in the tournament.
“It’s funny, we beat them in every phase of the game except the final score,” Rooney said. “We’ll come back strong tomorrow. I could tell this tournament means a lot to our players talking to them after the game. We need to play A’s baseball and we’ll be OK.”